Real Women Have Curves (2002)

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Released 3-Dec-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-America Ferrera And Lupe Ontiveros (Actors)
Audio Commentary-Director and Writers
Additional Footage-Ana, One Year Later
Featurette-English Language
Featurette-Spanish Language
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 86:28
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (52:28) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Patricia Cardoso
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring America Ferrera
Lupe Ontiveros
Ingrid Oliu
George Lopez
Brian Sites
Soledad St. Hilaire
Lourdes Perez
Jorge Cervera Jr.
Felipe de Alba
José Gerardo Zamora Jr.
Edgar Lujan
Lina Acosta
Celina Belizan
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Heitor Pereira


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, Action throughout the credits

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Ana (America Ferrera) is a Hispanic teenager from East LA whose dogged determination to make something of herself has been rewarded by graduating with honours from the Beverly Hills High School that it took her 3 buses to reach every day. At school she mixes with the white bread world of privilege - rich kids with rich prospects; but at home it's tortillas and sweatshops that make up her life. Her sister Estela (played superbly by Ingrid Oliu) runs a dressmaking workshop that turns out exquisite gowns at $18 apiece to be resold in Beverly Hills for $600 a garment. And when Ana throws in her job at a greasy spoon diner, her wretched and overbearing mother Carmen (Lupe Ontiveros) insists that she forgo her dreams of college life and work with Carmen and Estela at the dress shop.

     The battles of will between Ana and her mother are of mythical proportions as the young girl struggles to claim her own identity against the traditional views of her mother, who frets endlessly over Ana's weight preventing her from catching a good husband and settling down to be a good Hispanic breeder of grandchildren for Carmen to dote over. The older woman's melodramatic and brutally blunt methods of control know no boundaries, and she'll stop at nothing to control the life of her younger daughter in the hope of conforming her into her idea of a husband magnet. She sees no irony in the fact that she herself is overweight, and considers her nagging, pestering and taunting to be an expression of motherly love. "It's because I love you that I make your life so miserable," she confidently asserts to the poor, vexed Ana who, to her credit, is equally as stubborn and direct as her mother.

     Ana, of course, is a hybrid. The first American born child in a Mexican family, and educated by choice in the heartland of white America, she constantly must straddle both cultures and has many choices to make concerning her own identity. These are portrayed delicately and intelligently in the film, impressively directed by first time director Patricia Cardoso. Issues of social disparity, racial inequality, sexuality and identity are all gently explored without making the film feel didactic or syrupy. Instead, they are portrayed like life itself - messy, understated but filled with opportunity for joy and energy.

     Whilst the relationship with Carmen is a dynamic and challenging one, Ana has much strength to draw from - particularly from her adored grandfather (Felipe de Alba) and stoic father (Jorge Cervera Jr.). Her family base is large, loud, demonstrative and ultimately supportive. They are ribald but dignified, religious but realistic, and ultimately, they are a strong family of highly individual people.

     Over the course of time that Ana spends in the dress factory, she begins to see the people there in a new light. Where initially she felt only contempt for the women (a glorious ensemble cast including Soledad St. Hilaire and Lourdes Perez) and the work they do, bit-by-bit she becomes slowly embroiled in their lives and sees them for the dignified, courageous and flamboyant people that they are. Gradually their stories unfold, and she learns that she may yet have more to learn about life from these women than she originally thought. The sweatshop becomes the stage where Ana comes to see her mother as an entire person rather than just her personal nemesis. The women gossip, sew, swear and sweat together, and in one of the most exquisite scenes I've seen in a long time, dance together (I won't spoil the experience for you by telling you any more.)

     Real Women Have Curves is a celebration on celluloid. It ripples with life, avoids making cartoons out of the characters, and leaves one feeling emotionally satisfied and empowered without having been preached to. The photography is glorious and portrays the vividness of Hispanic life played out in the streets of East LA. It comes as no surprise that the production crew largely came precisely from that area - there is an intimacy and tenderness to the imagery that could probably only come from those personally acquainted with the area.

     The screenplay is adapted from a stage play written by Josefina Lopez when she was 19 years of age in reaction to her own upbringing, and the fact that as a larger woman, she was precluded from most traditional lead parts in the theatre. She co-wrote the screenplay with producer George La Voo, which in this case is a definite bonus. Apparently it differs widely from the theatrical version, where the story was based on Estela's experiences, rather than Ana's, so this may disconcert viewers who have seen and enjoyed the stage production. However, as a stand-alone piece of entertainment, this is a superlative production.

     There is action throughout the credits, which rounds off a satisfying visual meal, and eases one out of the experience gently.

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Transfer Quality

Video

      I found this to be a lovely transfer - very crisp, well-saturated colour, great detail and a true sense of quality throughout.

      The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced.

     The transfer is very clear and sharp with good definition in the shadows, true blacks, real whites and little distraction by low-level noise. There is occasionally a minor loss of definition during higher speed panning but it sorts itself out quickly and did not distract my attention from the film. There are several montages in the film with quite soft back lighting and these all show excellent detail and clarity. Scenes like those in the sweatshop had extremely contrasty lighting to deal with, and the transfer delivered clear pictures and good detail within those scenes.

     Colour was such an important element of this film. Vibrant strong primaries were handled beautifully and more subtle hues were also rendered well. The result was a vibrant and vivid colourscape that held blacks and whites cleanly, delivered accurate and luminous skin tones, and at times, almost popped out of the screen without any obvious bleeding or blooming.

     There were no MPEG artefacts that distracted from the film. Aliasing was almost non-existent and the print overall looked very clean. Film artefacts were very rare and never drew attention away from the story.

      With a script that alternated frequently between Spanish and English, the subtitles were burnt into the print, were very easy to read, and were displayed cleanly and without bleed. On checking the English for the Hard of Hearing subtitles, the text was accurate, legible and timely.

     This disc is an RSDL disc with the layer change placed at 52:28. The transition is obvious, but not annoying as the scene is at an end at that point.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

      There are four audio tracks on this DVD. The default is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There is also an English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Additionally present are 2 English Audio Commentary tracks, in Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to both soundtracks as well as the audio commentaries and found the surround sound information fairly subtle. There were occasions where the dialogue track sounded a touch tinny and shrill, but most of the time it was smooth and comfortable to listen to.

      The dialogue was clear and easy to understand at all times. As previously mentioned, the front speaker action was occasionally a little harsh, but not so often as to irreparably irritate. Audio sync was not a problem at all with this transfer, and was completely spot on.

     The original music by Heitor Pereira was an absolute winner. Indeed, all the music used created a soundscape that perfectly complemented the on-screen action. The thematic refrain of a childhood lullaby which laces through the picture was perfectly suited to the subject material, and the liberal use of Mariachi bands, rousing folk songs and moody ballads lifted the emotional level of the piece markedly.

      The surround channels were only ever subtly used, certainly never dominating and only ever creating a soft subtext to the aural experience.

      The subwoofer did occasionally get a chance to star, mostly with occasional bursts of activity. Nonetheless, nothing in the tonal quality of the film jarred or distracted the attention away.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     A good selection of meaningful extras is offered. But a word of warning. The two commentaries are presented in error. When I clicked Commentary One to listen to America Ferrera and Lupe Ontiveros discuss the film, I instead got Commentary Two with Patricia Cardoso, George La Voo and Josefina Lopez. Fortunately, when I then selected Commentary Two, I got the actors' commentary, so it's a straight swap.

Menu

      The menu design is taken directly from the movie and is 16x9 enhanced. The main menu features an animated clip from the movie and Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio.

Additional Scene - Ana - One Year Later.

     This scene runs for 3:57 and is presented at cinematic quality like the main film. It is a wonderful scene and in my humble opinion, deserved to remain in the final cut. The producers' commentary mentions that they decided to omit it to make the ending "hang more like real life," and it's a purpose that I respect, but there is so much information that it provides which is utterly satisfying to the viewer and is emotionally rewarding. A greater cynic than I might suggest that they cut this scene to provide more demand for a sequel!

Production Commentary - Patricia Cardoso (Director), George La Voo (Producer and Co Writer) and Josefina Lopez (Writer)

     As warned above, the screen says this is the actors' commentary, but that's just done to confuse you! The 3 production principals have no difficulty maintaining a well-ordered discussion over the course of the film. Both Cardoso and Lopez are intimately acquainted with the physical setting of the film as well as the themes played out within it, and their input at that level is illuminating. They reveal how some of each of their stories have made the transition into the script, and this further enhances one's appreciation of the plot. Both of the women reveal the strong similarities between the on-screen mother/daughter relationship and their own familial experience. There is not a great deal of technical discussion about the film, rather they concentrate on the Hollywood political minefield that they had to traverse to get it made at all, and many of the comments about the physical politics of America and the reluctance of financiers to bankroll projects without the inclusion of skinny people or bankable stars are very revealing. Overall, it's an interesting offering which shows how vulnerable Indie type products are to the movie-making machine. My biggest distraction was the disturbing similarity of George La Voo's voice and demeanour to Christopher Guest's character, Corky St. Clair in Waiting for Guffman! Show biz types - they're all the same!

Actors' Commentary - America Ferrera (Ana) and Lupe Ontiveros (Carmen)

     The same warning applies but once you work it out, this commentary is again quite well done. Ontiveros and Ferrera are both articulate, thoughtful and energetic, and they complement each other well. Their discussion places the film's themes firmly in context and it is clear that their own life experiences resonate with the characters and the storylines. With typical Latina zest, they embrace the subject with passion and clarity and enjoy each other's company for the duration of the film.

Featurette One - English Version

     This runs for 8:19 and provides some good background interviews from the principal cast and crew. Whilst still essentially promotional in nature, the interviewees do impart some information on the background to the piece. It is presented in varied ratios, the featurette material shown at 1.33:1 full screen and the theatrical footage shown in the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio.

Featurette Two - Spanish Version

     Running for 14:50, this feature is a frustration for non-Spanish speakers like myself. Again presented in 1.33:1 with 1.85:1 footage, the quality of the imagery looks richer, the interviews look more revealing and there are other production members introduced. It's a shame that there aren't accompanying English subtitles to make this a more rewarding experience (and in the interests of fair play, I would be delighted to see Spanish subtitles on the English featurette.)

Cast & Crew Bios

     Extensive biographies and plenty of meaty detail on:

    These bios are more detailed than many one sees, and have been written to directly reflect their significance to the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    Far and away, the choice is R4. The additional scene is genuinely of value to your viewing experience of this film.

Summary

     This film is a joy to watch. It enjoyed tremendous success at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival and has since become a favourite film with its rich characters, vivid presentation and life-affirming story line. This is a film to be savoured. Ole!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Thursday, December 04, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

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